A bit of historic detective work on a young Victorian hero – Solomon Galaman

The book I have been working on recently is one of those labours of love that I sometimes do if only for myself that quite often seem to catch the imagination of others. Researching places relating to the heroes of Postman’s Park near St Paul Cathedralcan be a time consuming process in more ways than one.

Not everyone memorialised died in a site that is specifically recorded and so much has changed over in some cases nearly 150 years. Street names have changed and between Nazis, slum clearances, post war and Millennial re-development and just a century or more of life can make tracking things down a bit tricky even before I can visit them. Some are distinctly harder to track down than others.

One of the plaques at Postman’s Park that always stands out to me is a young Jewish boy named Solomon. He died having saved his brother who slipped on a cobblestoned street in Spitalfields, the exact spot is mentioned in old reports so to satisfy my professional curiosity and to form some sort of personal connection, I decided to track down his home.

After working out that the street he lived on had changed name, I thought my luck was in but progress had made things even more complicated. Though most of the street remains somewhat unchanged, his home is no longer there. Instead there was a small park on one corner and a block of flats across the road.

Being 10 feet apart might not make much difference in the big scheme of things but always want my books and tours to be authentic and I erred between one location and another as to where his home might have been.

Incredibly I know the street in question very well indeed as its on my Historic Pub tour and it felt strange to have been looking at the memorial for Solomon for 8 or 8 years whilst also walking along his street not too far away and never realising it.

Then like an idiot this morning, I noticed something about the old map I often use.. One of the buildings nearby has P.H. on it or Public House / Pub.

St John’s Gardens has clearly expanded over the last century or two.

I knew there were two or three buildings opposite that were original and Google Street-view shows what I believe looks like a convincing pub front and old fixtures up high for a pub sign. So I managed to count the number of houses over the road on the old map to see they correspond with the number to the side street “north” of the pub.

The former pub and on the right in the distance, the red-bricked block of flats that could also be a possible location for the home of Solomon.

Knowing the last existing terrace house on the row is #32 and Solomon was at #35, I can prove that he lived on the tiny end of terrace house that is where the tree now is.

These old houses used to go right along the street and precisely match the one my young Victorian hero would have lived in.

One day I am sure I will find out whether his house was bombed our just pulled down to improve the garden, perhaps as it was derelict or beyond repair but for now I know where little Solomon left home that day in 1901 and I feel I can write what I want to on him with a bit more authority.

I like it when I can peel off the layers of time and make a connection between then and now. It’s one of the things that make my tours in London with Ye Olde England Tours the most authentic there is… as mentioned by the worlds #1 travel website.

I shall think of Solomon every time I walk by that large tree on the photo above where he once would have lived.

You can visit Postman’s Park on my Secret Gardens of the City of London Walking Tour or indeed read more about it in my book Secret Gardens of the City of London

About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including several #1 sellers. I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. I run my private tours company with one tour stated by the leading travel website as being with the #1 authentic London Experience. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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